Addressing Information Literacy and the Digital Divide in Higher Education

Nicole A. Buzzetto-Hollywood, Hwei C wang, Magdi Elobeid, Muna E Elobaid
InSITE 2018  •  2018  •  pp. 916

[This Proceedings paper was revised and published in the 2018 issue of the Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning, Volume 14]

The digital divide and educational inequalities remain a significant societal prob-lem in the United States impacting low income, first-generation, and minority learners. Accordingly, institutions of higher education are challenged to meet the needs of students with varying levels of technological readiness with deficiencies in information and digital literacy shown to be a hindrance to student success. This paper documents the efforts of a mid-Atlantic minority-serving institution as it seeks to assess and address the digital and information literacy skills of underserved students

A number of years ago, a historically Black university located in Maryland devel-oped an institutional commitment to the digital and information literacy of their students. These efforts have included adoption of an international digital literacy certification exam used as a placement test for incoming freshmen; creation of a Center for Student Technology Certification and Training; course redesign to be performance based with the incorporation of a simulation system, eportfolios, Webquests, a skills building partnership with the University library; pre and post testing to measure the efficacy of a targeted computer applications course taught to business and STEM majors; and student perception surveys

In 2017, pre and post testing of students in enrolled in core computer applications courses were conducted using the IC3 test administered during the second and fifteenth week of the academic terms. These scores were compared in order to measure degree of change. Additionally, post test scores were assessed against five years of the scores from the same test used as a placement for incoming freshmen. A student perception survey was also administered. The survey included a combination of dichotomous, Likert-scaled, and ranking questions with descriptive statistical analyses performed on the data. The results were used to test four hypotheses.

This study provides research on a population (first-generation minority college students) that is expanding in numbers in higher education and that the literature, reports as being under-prepared for academic success. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of current studies examining the information and technological readiness of students enrolling at minority serving institutions. This paper is timely and relevant and helps to extend our discourse on the digital divide and technological readiness as it impacts higher education. Additionally, this paper also marks a valuable contribution to the literature by examining the efficacy of computer applications courses in higher education with Generation Z learners

The digital divide is a serious concern for higher education especially as schools seek to increasingly reach out to underserved populations. In particular, the results of this study show that students attending a minority serving institution who are primarily first generation learners do not come to college with the technology skills needed for academic success. Pre and post testing of students as well as responses to survey questions have proven the efficacy of computer applications courses at building the technology skills of students. These courses are viewed overwhelmingly positive by students with respondents reporting that they are a necessary part of the college experience that benefits them academically and professionally. Use of an online simulated learning and assessment system with immediate automated feedback and remediation was also found to be particularly effective at building the computer and information literacy skills of students.

Institutions of higher education should invest in a thorough examination of the information and technology literacy skills, needs, and perceptions of students both coming into the institution as well as following course completion.

This research should be expanded to more minority serving institutions across the United States as well as abroad. This particular research protocol is easily replicated and can be duplicated at both minority and majority serving institutions enabling greater comparisons across groups.

The results of this research should shed light on a problem that desperately needs to be addressed by institutions of higher education which is the realities of the digital divide and the underpreparedness of entering college students in particular those who are from low income, first generation, and minority groups

A detailed quantitative survey study is being conducted that seeks to examine the technology uses, backgrounds, needs, interests, career goals, and professional expectations with respect to a range of currently relevant technologies

Digital divide, information literacy, first generation college students, technology readiness, HBCU, minority learners, technology assessment, digital literacy, under prepared students, IC3, computer skills, computer concepts course, computer education, generation z, computer skills assessment, UMES, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, SAM, Cengage, skills assessment management, Certiport, technological competency
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